Why I won’t be watching Stephen King's ‘Under the Dome’ miniseries

June 24, 2013
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Back in the ‘90s, I had an idea.

 

What would happen, I wondered, if a section of a city were suddenly covered with an invisible, impenetrable dome? What would happen to those inside as they dealt with the phenomenon, negotiating new rules in this altered reality?

So I wrote a screenplay, which I called “Nine Square Blocks.” And I registered that screenplay with the Writers Guild of America. Then I sent that screenplay to a few contacts in Hollywood and used it to try to land representation.

Nothing happened. Flash forward to 2004.

Playwright Eric Pfeffinger and I had just sold our first collaborative novel, “The High-Impact Infidelity Diet,” to Random House. While that book was awaiting publication, we kicked around ideas for what would be our next novel. In search of that elusive next idea, I sent Eric an old one: a copy of my "Nine Square Blocks" screenplay.

MidwesternHe liked it—well, he liked the dome device. But, to him, our proposed novel would work better as a social satire, not as the Capra-esque story I had envisioned.

Fine by me. We scrapped all the characters in the screenplay and moved the dome from an urban neighborhood to a suburban development. Over the course of a year, we created a mammoth manuscript that we then forwarded to our agent. Among the titles we considered: “Under the Dome.” We rejected that because it just seemed lame.

Our agent shopped the novel beginning in 2005. Alas, no publisher wanted the unwieldy thing. So we parked it in that special drawer where old projects ferment.

I couldn't shake the story, though. So in 2007, I asked Eric’s permission to try to streamline the novel, tightening its focus to a handful of characters. As I edited and rewrote, I found that what I thought would be a shorter novel really wanted to be a play. To test my theory, I gathered some actors to read a draft. Surprise: It seemed to work.

After a series of readings/workshops, Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre opted to stage what became known as “Midwestern Hemisphere” as its first production.

During the workshops, I learned in Entertainment Weekly that one of the plot points of “The Simpsons Movie” would be the appearance of an impenetrable dome over Springfield. I felt sick. Still, great minds, right?

We went ahead with the show, anyway, confident that the play we created transcended the originality of the concept. It premiered in March 2008 as the first full theatrical production ever staged at the Indianapolis Artsgarden. You can find a positive review of it here and a negative one ... wait, you can find that for yourself if you really want to.

An afterlife? We thought the crowd-pleasing "Midwestern Hemisphere" had a shot. So I rewrote, nipped and tucked, and soon a rewritten version was workshopped at Crossroads Theatre Company in Terre Haute and read at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Positive reactions all around.

But then I read in Entertainment Weekly about Stephen King’s upcoming book, “Under the Dome.” I felt sick. Still, great minds, right?

Nah. I figured we were done. Although rights are, as they say, available.

I didn’t read King's book. And, no, I didn’t pursue legal action. Despite my registration of the original "NIne Square Blocks" script, the fact is that two people can come up with similar ideas. So can three. Or more.

But I won’t be watching the “Under the Dome” miniseries. Too painful.

And if Stephen King announces that his next novel involves a beer can raft, a horror movie magazine in the 1970s, a teen working in a rock 'n' roll shop in the 1980s, or an interactive auction, he’ll be hearing from my attorney.

Your thoughts?

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  • Watch
    You really should watch the first few, to make sure there aren't any uncanny similarities to your characters.
  • King's idea from 1970s
    King started writing Under the Dome in the 1970s but gave up after about 70 pages because the story was beyond his scope at the time. He told Douglas Winter about it in the 1980s in an interview for the biography The Art of Darkness. He took a second stab at the idea in a novel called The Cannibals, which he wrote in the 1980s while on the set of Creepshow. In that one, residents were confined to an apartment building instead of a town. When Under the Dome first came out, some people accused King of copying the idea from The Simpsons Movie, which uses the same concept. The TV series is somewhat different from the novel. Characters are combined or created or have different backstories.
    • Hoosier under dome
      Might want to watch the first episode to support Hoosier Dean Norris.
      • Outer Limits
        There was an episode of an OLD 1960's black & white series, The Outer Limits, that addressed a square city block of residents and their respective homes being picked up and transported to some other realm. Another planet or whatever was never really divulged. But, it was very interesting to see how people quickly devolved into baser instincts of survival and superiority. Very scary show, particularly the ending when they all united in the cause of basically surrendering to "the outsiders" and giving up their humanity...
      • Great minds, eh?
        I have a screenplay idea I've been sitting on for years that has a related concept, of a dome, that...no, I won't go any further. Mine isn't written, nor copyrighted yet.
      • Hey Ho, Here We Go
        Another one who accuses Stephen King of being a story-thief. The never dying trend. So sad!
      • stealing
        Peter, Never accused him of stealing. As I wrote: "the fact is that two people can come up with similar ideas. So can three. Or more." Just expressing the frustration of hitting similar ideas. Now I'll go listen to Maury Yeston's "Phantom" musical... Thanks for reading, Lou
      • Under the Dome..
        Always go with your gut. You need to dust off some of your novel ideas, you just might have another, "Under The Dome" just sitting in anonymity.
      • My thoughts?
        I think you're a liar and a fraud. But that's just me. Don't let that get in the way of your attorney getting paid.
        • Wha?
          Vendetta, What am I lying about? Where is the fraud? And I don't have an attorney. --Lou
        • Old Idea Original Twist?
          The idea of a dome being over a town is not a new one. I had an elementary school teacher suggest the idea 30 years ago! Even Shakespeare's stories weren't original ideas. He just put his own twist on them. :)
        • De Ja Vu
          I too , questioned the authenticity of who wrote this concept story as I too saw it long ago . Outter limits I thought , so after a dissapointing hour of its preimer this evenings ' UNDER THE DOME" , the news had a short piece on Steven King. Curious minds want to know. I myself an unknown writer , concepts never escape me. So i went online to do research. I found others besides me seeing this dome story on black and white . the conceot is the same . I have to express my sympathies to Mr Harry's and Mr Eric. lol that a dream an idea was swept between the cracks and how it would tear a writer apart to see this so built up when working passionatly on your work. the time the effort. What realy disturbs me now is that the writrs guild is transparent in its ability to be a guild at all. if a writer registers their idea with thw wirters guild it should have some merit. writer pay for them to register it and for what reason. Should I trust the guild with my work. The blogger auther here who is sharing a heartache with readers simply is sharing just how devating it is , in the world of writing and film or novel storytelling. Nevertheless. I did research and I too was thinking outter limits. Found an articlke posted over one year ago and the supposing correct outter limits was aposed series called Night Visions and the episode was titled " A veiw through the window ". I have yet to look into that title further online. thanks for allowing me to post on this matter and my heart goes out to you Mr. Harry. from one writer with visions of thier own to another . I feel ya .
          • Renee
            After reading your post, it is previous obvious why you are an unknown writer.
          • poor lou 2 bad 4U
            Ha Ha. Lou, other are, after all, only 4 stories, with variations. (Double cross,blah blah blah. They are all in the Bible. Your problem is your last name isn't King & your fist isn't Steve. Welcome 2 the club!
          • Been done
            Both of you are using old concept, twilight zone episode from 1960!
          • liar
            You have the worst ideas, a beer can raft, teen in a rock n roll shop in the 80s (been done to death) and you think that Steven King hasn't had this idea for decades. You are a laugh. Also thinking 'under the dome' is a lame name just goes to show how much you know. Nothing.
          • idiot
            Avatar was Pocahontas. Ideas can be similar to the point of the same. Just because his got famous doesn't mean you need to have a cry on the internet. Stick to something you can do. Like labour. Beer can raft HAHA what are you writing a national lampoon?
          • Laughing
            At all these people taking offense and offering insults when you are obviously not guilty of any of the charges.
          • It's older than that
            Check out "The Box" by James Blish from 1949.
          • no new ideas
            The idea of intertextuality suggests there are no new ideas under the sun--or under the dome or anywhere else for that matter--freshman students are taught this concept early in their college careers. With 40 million viewers (according to the commercial) not sure it matters whether you watch the show or not.
          • Dome
            Apparently many more minds think alike. Some woman in Germany wrote a similar story in the 1960's.
          • Thank goodness!
            Thank goodness story ideas can't be copy written etc. imagine if some lousy writer came up with a decent idea but failed to write even a passable novel? I'd much rather an awesome story teller like King be able to write a novel about an idea he also had. Stop sniveling and improve your writing and see where that gets you.
          • Thats a lie
            Oh come on? That's such a lie, he just doesn't want to admit that he got the idea from the Simpsons movie. You think this is the first time King stole ideas from people? I caught him many times doing it, even with simple things like taking Ray Bradbury's book cover and using it for Blood and Smoke. He does take idea from people and always conveniently explains that he started it a long time ago or whatever because he knows people will put 2 and 2 together. I love King books, just saying

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